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PJC Article on Right to Counsel in Civil Cases in ABA's Human Rights Magazine

September 14, 2005: The efforts of the Public Justice Center and the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel to focus attention on the need for legal assistance for poor people is increasingly reaching the national stage, as evidenced by a recent article in the American Bar Association's Human Rights magazine.  Co-authored by Debra Gardner, PJC's Legal Director, and by Paul Marvy of the Committee for Indigent Representation and Civil Legal Equity, "A Civil Right to Counsel for the Poor" was just published in the Summer 2005 edition.
The PJC spearheaded the formation of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel in 2003, and this coalition has been actively focusing attention on the fact that at least 70% of poor Americans cannot get legal assistance for serious legal problems.  The Coalition has been engaged in discussions with the ABA's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defenders (SCLAID), and is working towards a proposal to the ABA endorse a civil right to counsel. This effort is long overdue in America: as pointed out in Debra's article:

"Among peer nations, the United States stands virtually alone in its tight-fisted approach to civil legal assistance. Over fifty countries provide legal representation in civil cases as a matter of right. Many do so because the European Court of Human Rights has recognized the right as fundamental to the very notion of a fair hearing. Countries as diverse as Germany, South Africa,Poland, Greece, Ireland, Slovenia,and Hong Kong have well-functioning civil assignment systems, some centuries old.These civil right-to-counsel provisions are no recent invention, and they derive from concepts of open and fair justice as old as the justice systems themselves."

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